17 Oct

Me, You, and Everyone Too

Me, too.

Of course, me, too. I struggle to imagine what sort of woman has never been harassed or assaulted. This theoretical woman would probably be the type to live under some mantle of patrilineal protection: I can only imagine a woman free of harassment if she lives according to the patriarchy’s ever-shifting rules. Even then, is she really free of harassment? If you second-guess yourself into oblivion, contort your whole life to conform to the rules and expectations of the men who surround you, have you really lived a life free of harassment? Or have you merely applied it to yourself, sparing the need for patriarchal sanction?

These discussions surrounding abuse always get me because I have been subject to the leering and dangerous attentions of men, but then I think, well, I’ve never been raped. I’ve never been assaulted. I’ve never not made it home safe. Yet, what I have experienced has stayed with me:

14 and walking home from school, a man pulls his car up to the curb where I’m walking. Two tittering women in the backseat. He invites me in. I can’t remember what he said only that terror overtook me and through the shroud of my naiveté I at least knew to stride purposefully (don’t run, don’t show fear) to my door, lock myself inside.

17 and working a high school job as a caterer. A male patron asks me, “Aren’t you out past your bedtime?” The threat, of course, lurking in the subtext.

19 and working in a mall bookshop. A male customer tells me that it’s cool that I like “reading and stuff.” He follows this statement up with, “How old are you?” and attempts to ask me out.

21 and a man on a bus won’t stop talking to me. He tells me I have a “smile like Malcolm X.” Perhaps this isn’t a true instance of harassment, but it stayed with me. I felt powerless to disengage from this commuter conversation. I still don’t know what about my smile put him in mind of Malcolm X. This mystery lingers.

24 and riding my bike home from work. A man (a youth, more likely) shouts at me from a passing vehicle, “Go eat hamburger, bitch.” Is there truly anything more offensive than a fat woman on a bicycle?

It’s interesting to me that I struggle to recall particular instances of harassment as an adult. Did people stop harassing me? I don’t think so. As I matured and grew confident, shedding my ignorance, I learned how to tell men to leave well enough alone. My male peers started calling me “intimidating.” But something else happened too. I stopped being young. I lost the casual fuckability that men ascribe to young women. I put on weight, shaved my head, became strong. That’s still a woman that men harass, but not the “hey baby” kind of harassment. It’s the “You’re too fat to fuck but I still would and that makes me hate myself and you by extension” brand, which I stopped caring about many years ago.

#MeToo is about sexualized harassment and violence, but I can’t help considering all sex-based oppression. Do I get sexually harassed at work anymore? No. But in my last job, I spent years being seen as some kind of untrustworthy bitch because I refused to do the things women are supposed to do to make men feel comfortable. I am unflinchingly confident. I stopped apologizing for having ideas. I no longer hesitate to correct a man when he talks over me or repeats my suggestions. And you know what? Men fucking hate that. So no, not me too, not lately. Yet, men still hang their expectations on me, and on women everywhere, and behave badly when we refuse to meet them.

Harassment, as #MeToo demonstrates, is not isolated. All women (and some men, sure) experience it. To me though, my experiences seem petty in contrast not only to those of my fellow women, but to those inflicted on us by this system of patriarchal, capitalistic oppression.

Men feel entitled to women. They think they have the right to punish women for not conforming to their “standards” of sexuality. They think they have the right to punish other men for encroaching upon what’s “theirs.”

When I thought about this “me, too” discussion, one of the first things that I recalled was not something that happened to me, per se, but something that happened to my dad.

At eight years old, I witnessed a man smash the side of my dad’s skull with a baseball bat.

My dad had come to retrieve my sister and I from my mom and her boyfriend’s (husband’s? who remembers) house. Some kind of argument ensued. The details I’ve forgotten or perhaps never knew, but can there be any doubt that the nature of this dispute was over who held the rights to my mother?

Dad’s face was covered in blood. We spent the night with my Aunt Ruth and my cousins. I don’t think I understood what was going on but I knew there was a lot of blood involved. My dad lost most of his hearing in one ear.

I know my dad wouldn’t be on team #MeToo, but maybe he should be. This incident wasn’t exactly harassment of me, my sister, or my mom, but it feels like we should think of it that way. What was this other than an act to threaten my mom, to get her in line, to remove a potential suitor and male competitor? Patriarchy is about the violent custody of women as property. Any act to further that system is a part of me, too, in my opinion. So, of course, me too.

25 Jan

Blogging Through the Anger

I’m not an angry person. At least, I don’t think of myself that way. Some of my family members flare up with white-hot rage, a pyroclasticflow of madness. I’ve always been the even-tempered one, so it is unsual to find myself experiencing rage. I have raged at the news for days. When Trump was elected,  I spent some time being sad. Now that I’ve seen how much havoc a small band of oligarchs can wreak in 5 days, I feel fury.

There are many reasons to be mad. However, I can only be so mad at any particular moment. At least, until we unlock more dimensions. I’m sure my eighth-dimensional outrage will be a thing to behold. In the meantime, a tirade in three dimensions.

I saw today, on Facebook, this headline:

Lawmaker: Criminalizing Abortion Would Force Women to be ‘More Personally Responsible’

And I thought, “More personally responsible.” I don’t know if anger can stop time, but I am unable to confirm that time did not stop.

I ask myself: how could women be more personally responsible for childbirth? Actually, here’s what I wrote on Facebook. What I wrote without even reading the article:

Men are the ones who need to be “more responsible” for sex, are you fucking kidding me? Men can LEAVE. A woman is stuck with the responsibility for sex whether she chooses to keep it or not. This is a gods damned joke.

Where are the tragic stories of women deserting their partners? The children who never knew their mothers? The men rushing to the drug store to get Plan B because the condom broke. Oh, wait, those things don’t exist. Women are the primary party responsible for the consequences of sex. Women get pregnant. Women gestate for nine months. Women give birth. Women nurse infants. Women are the primary caregivers. It is woman who is personally responsible for the consequences of sex, not man.

The smug, woman-hating face of Texas State Representative Tony Tinderholt

State Representative Tony Tinderholt. Look at his smug, woman-hating face

Eventually, I read the article. The man making these comments (because obviously only a man would say something so unabashedly ignorant) is, in fact, a state representative in Texas (because obviously Texas). State Representative Tony Tinderholt believes, “that, if passed, the bill would reduce the number of pregnancies, ‘when they know that there’s repercussions .'”

I didn’t know that women were unaware of the reprecussions of sex. Women whose uterine linings shed themselves every month from, for some, as early as the age of 10. Women, one in five of whom are sexually assaulted. Women, who are raped by their own partners. Who could know more intimately of the repercussions of sex.

According to State Representative Tinderholt, it’s currently just too easy to get an abortion. It’s a “backup,” he says. Tony Tinderholt imagines women thinking to themselves, “Oh, I can just go get an abortion.” Sure, just go get an abortion. Walk down to the abortion store and put on my abortion hat and remove this zygote from my body. Truly a simple, painless, and stigma-free process in 2017 America. I do wonder if Tony Tinderholt has ever been with anyone to get an abortion? I bet he thinks he doesn’t know anyone who has had an abortion. I bet he’s wrong about that.

Here are some facts (regular, not “alternative”—or is the alternative to alternative facts “straight edge”? A lot of questions today.):

  • Women seeking abortion in Texas have to make at least two visits to a clinic. Super convenient for women with jobs. Or women without jobs. For no women, that is, is it convenient.
  • Women seeking abortion in Texas have to have an ultrasound at least 24 hours before getting an abortion. This is called the “Right to know” law and the medical practitioner is mandated to give out information about “medical risks.”
  • Women seeking abortion cannot have medication abortion. Even if that might be safer and easier for them.

The worst of all? Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world.

Opinions like those of Tony Tinderholt lead to misguided policies to “protect” women from themselves. These policies lead directly to higher mortality rates for women. Women are literally dying because of this smug asshole. Because of a man’s misguided opinion on what is best for women.

An image of women in red with red head scarves taken from the movie The Handmaid's Tale.

Coming soon to a real life near you.

Men like Tony need to admit that these policies are not to protect or help women. They are to control women and their movements. They are to prevent women from having control over their own bodies. That is unacceptable. Women need equal rights to men. We need them now.

A lot of douchebags have crawled out of their holes in the past week, largely in response to the Women’s March. Here are some honorable mentions of people who made me mad.

  • L.A. Times has put this more succinctly than I can, “An outspoken Nebraska state legislator who was fined for having cybersex using a state computer resigned Wednesday after causing further outrage by sending a tweet that implied participants at the Women’s March were too unattractive to be victims of sexual assault.” Right, because as all women know, only the pretty ones get the dubious honor of being sexually assaulted. Thanks, fella.
  • Some people are protesting at Planned Parenthood (what else is new) because they want it defunded (I’m not going to link this one). I’m going to give Planned Parenthood some extra money just for them! And I signed up to be a clinic defender. Fuck these people. The matriarchy is strong.
  • Another gem of a human being from Texas says, in regards to the Women’s March, “Just think about this. After just one day in office, Trump managed to achieve something that no one else has been able to do: he got a million fat women out walking.” Dude, walking was the least strenuous thing I did last week. I’m going to keep lifting weights until I’m strong enough to throw you through a window.
  • A man who owns a brewery in Sacramento, where I live, said in regards to the Women’s march that “the left just can’t accept loss.” He’s going to have a hard time accepting the loss of business to his brewery.

What I’m trying to say here today is that I’m fucking mad. I’m as mad as I’ve ever been I’m mad that these genuine buttholes feel emboldened by Trump’s election. I’m mad that women still don’t have equal rights, that there’s no equal rights amendment. I’m mad that in 2017 we still have men trying to legislate women’s bodies—not even just trying, succeeding. I’m mad that these assholes have come out of the woodwork.

But you know what I’m happy about? How motivated and strong women are. So many of us have awakened to the fact that it is incumbent upon us all to act. We must act up and we must act out and be loud and be all those stupid things that society tells you you can’t do. Today is the day. Tomorrow is the day too. The next four years are the day because, women, we got this. The matriarchy is strong and its roots are deep.